Central Vietnam restaurants
With only a narrow band of arable land between the mountains and the sea, restaurants in central Vietnam lean toward seafood and freshwater fish. Flavors here tend to be spicier and earthier than in the rest of the country. Hue is famed for a complex imperial Vietnamese cuisine characterized by elaborate presentations and dainty portions; the food is a delicious holdover from the 19th-century reign of finicky emperor Dong Khanh, who demanded 50 different dishes, all prepared by separate cooks, for each of his three daily meals. The city is also renowned for more pedestrian fare such as banh khoai, rice paper crepes filled with shrimp, pork, egg, and vegetables. Hoi An's specialty is cao lau, rice noodles served with pork, sprouts, croutons, mint, and banana bud; the locals swear the tastiest noodles are boiled with water drawn from the town's Bale well. Dinner begins earlier than in more cosmopolitan Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi; 7 pm is the peak hour.